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Following the Story: Why we care about what we do by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 10, 2009, 7:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Reuters provides an interesting humanitarian story tracking service, Alertnet.org’s World Tracker Service, that charts the rise, retention (and fall) of 107 English-language media sources from around the world. Reuter’s codes then chart the humanitarian issues, providing an interesting look at why and how the general public cares about or follows certain stories. During August 2009, swine flu received the most attention, particularly on August 12, 2009 when the 107 news sources contained 123 articles on the subject. Was the attention merited? Well, on August 12, 2009 the WHO published its sixty-first update on the pandemic H1N1 and confirmed cases in the following countries: Timore-Leste, Pakistan, Kirabati, Maldives, French Guiana, Falkland Islands (UKOT), Wallis and Futuna. The day before, The New York Times reported that the family of the first deaths of swine flu in New York planned to sue the city for wrongful death, and CBS had a story on flying rabbis praying for the demise of the virus. Also Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias announced on August 11 that he had contracted H1N1.

The second largest amount of coverage was “Afghan turmoil,” which spiked in attention from August 16 to August 21 leading up to the August 20 elections. While the election results are still unconfirmed, coverage dropped from around seventy stories per day during the aforementioned five day period to eighteen mentions on August 22 before ending the month with thirty seven stories on August 31.

Somalia generated thirty-nine stories on August 4, its high for the month before coverage declined to average one to six stories for the remainder of August. Coverage of Iraq regularly ebbed and flowed beginning the month with thirty four mentions and ending it with only four. Around the anniversary of the South Ossetian war in 2008, coverage spiked on August 6 and then sunk to zero on August 15. Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentencing by the Burmese junta on August 11 drove news mentions from only two on August 10 to twenty five the following day. By the 15th, Myanmar was back to only two mentions in the news.

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